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Pacemaker and ICD Lead Extraction

Laser Lead Extraction TeamPacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) deliver energy to the heart through thin, flexible wires called leads. When these leads are not working properly – because of infection, damage, or surrounding scar tissue – they need to be removed.

Pacemaker and ICD leads that have been in place for many years can become very attached to the heart and blood vessel walls, making them difficult to remove. UC San Diego surgeons are skilled at using a minimally invasive procedure called laser lead extraction to cut through scar tissue surrounding the lead and allow it to be easily removed.

A Top Performer in Laser Pacemaker and ICD Lead Extractions

Only a small number of medical centers offer this complex surgery. UC San Diego does more each year than any other facility in the region, having performed more than 650. We also do this surgery in a “hybrid” operating room, with both state-of-the-art imaging equipment and everything necessary for open heart surgery. Having two physicians — a cardiac electrophysiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon — perform the surgery together enhances patients’ safety enormously.

In addition, our physicians have published and presented papers in lead management at national and international conferences, and often train other electrophysiologists in when and how to perform lead extractions.

Video: Learn about pacemaker and ICD lead extractions

Dr. Ulrika Birgersdotter-Green explains the team approach to remove or replace pacemaker and defibrillator leads at UC San Diego Health.

Video: What to expect before, during and after your lead extraction 

Meet the UC San Diego Health physicians who perform this delicate and specialized procedure, and other team members who will ensure your comfort and safety. You'll also get a step-by-step overview of your stay at Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center.

Video: Hear from a lead extraction patient and her doctors

In November 2012, our facility performed its 100th lead extraction, with a 100% success rate. (We've since performed nearly 500.) JenyLyn Carpio, the 100th patient, was 22 years old when she experienced a total heart blockage and was diagnosed with a genetic heart disorder that required a defibrillator and pacemaker.

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First-Ever Procedure May Be Safer Technique for Left-Sided Surgeries

The UC San Diego team recently used a novel approach to extract pacemaker leads that had been placed on the wrong side of the heart — problematic because the left side of the heart is connected to the brain. Our new technique for protecting the brain may have application for other left-sided percutaneous cardiac procedures. Read more and see a video.

Research-Based Medicine

Our physicians are actively involved in clinical research that helps make lead extractions safer and more effective. View lead extraction papers published by UC San Diego faculty.

Lead Management Meeting

Above, Dr. Victor Pretorius presents at a lead management meeting hosted by Dr. Pretorius, Dr. Birgersdotter-Green, and UC San Diego. Physicians from across North America attended to learn lead management indications and techniques.